Thursday, 27 September 2007

Social Networking - A Different Perspective

I attended an interesting session in London this morning, hosted by a consultancy practice who really do get the power and value of social networking.

The speakers knew their stuff, and seemed to have a lot of real world experience ( they certainly mentioned a large number of "blue chip" clients and prospects ).

The most important point made ( and it wasn't just made by me !! ) was that Web 2.0 is far far more important than the technology that (currently) underpins it - I love AJAX, DOJO, RSS etc. but it's not going to help my business spend less to make more. Web 2.0 ( I so hate that phrase ) is all about the power of user-owned, user-created, user-managed, user-moderated content - the power of communities, collaboration, information sharing etc.

As a technologist ( aka geek or nerd ), I still worry about a couple of things about this whole area: -

* As a business, who can I trust to host, maintain, secure AND BACKUP my content, IP etc. ? Do I really want to bet my business on a 3rd party service, especially if it's free. I'm old fashioned
enough to believe that you get what you pay for and, therefore, the corollary of that is also true - if you don't pay, you can't whinge

* Do I really want to encourage my employees to create potentially massive amounts of uncontrolled, unstructured data ?

Neither of these things are show-stoppers - many companies offer security, reliability, SLAs etc. and unfettered creativity is far better than drone-like subservience.

The other thing that did come out of today's session was an important message that business leaders need to hear - your employees ( past, present and future ) will be using social networking tools at some time ( instant messaging, blogging, chatrooms, newsgroups, discussion fora etc. ).

Therefore, control is (a) hard and (b) somewhat fruitless - save the stick and offer some carrot - provide the tools in a safe, secure, organised ( rather than controlled ) manner, with the caveat that, if you create the content during office hours on our kit, we reserve the right to own it, moderate it and (in some extreme cases) remove it.

All in all, a good investment of a morning ( and the coffee was good, strong but good ).

Thanks to Casper, Ed and Jon for the invite.

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